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Sunday, August 29, 2004

Da E-Mail's Gonna Get You, Da E-Mail's Gonna Get You, Da E-mail's Gonna Get You... Pub-lic-i-ty

By: Michael Akerman


If you'll kindly direct your attention to the line above this (the one which says "Posted by Michael Akerman," with Michael Akerman in fancy-doodle lettering), you may notice a small icon that looks like a letter with an arrow, obviously signifying that it is moving on somewhere. That's right, it's the classic internet representation of e-mail! Due to Blogger's being all awesome and such, they released a way to enable a feature that allows you, the reader, to spread the word about IVIC with a convenient clickable!

So, seeing as you're all in college (except for those of you who aren't), surrounded by politically charged, sometimes-angry-but-always-furious-at-Bush, liberal, Hippie college students (and one or two intelligent Republicans), it would behoove you to send along posts you think someone would enjoy or be enraged by to... whoever it is... you were thinking of.

As I said in a comment below, the big blogs get about 300 comments a day. IVIC's got a lot of catching up to do (like getting a better domain name, which costs money, which I don't have (hint hint, wink wink, click click, ads ads)), so get the word out in a non-threatening, welcoming, come-or-else manner!




Now, for a public service announcement after my advertisement:

My computer recently fell prey to a virus (sux0r). And before you ask, yes, I always keep my virus definitions up to date, and it's Symantec Professional, so it's got the most accurate virus definitions, too. Apparently, I fell prey to a Brand-New (ooh, aah!) virus.

It was a back door Trojan (which sounds gross. To quote the Simpsons: "From now on, when people think of wood, they'll think of Trojans!"), meaning it pulls spyware, adware, malware and the like off the internet. It's not particularly dangerous, but it fills up your hard drive and takes up a lot of processor time.

If this was one of those viri that sends itself to everyone in my address book, and you got it... um... sorry, I guess, but you really oughtn't open files from anyone if you don't expect it or don't know what it is.

At any rate, I stress that even if you don't notice something wrong with your computer, run a spyware check often (weekly, if you can) and a virus scan as often (at least monthly. I run one twice a week).

Now, for the links:

My favorite spyware scanner is Spybot- Search & Destroy. It is an absolutely free program that you can get here. Make sure you update every time you use it, although I think it does that automatically the first time with the new version (1.3).

Additionally, you may want to run Ad-Aware from Lavasoft (especially the first few times) after Spybot. It's a (mostly) free program (meaning you can buy a better, licebsed version, but the free one is pretty good) from a different company, so it catches slightly different programs. Personally, I run Spybot almost exclusively, and only run Ad-Aware when I notice spyware that's not being caught by Spybot, or I'm under seige by spyware for some reason (like my recent virus, or if a particularly spyware-laden site slips through my various defenses). You can get Ad-Aware here.

Now, the most important bit of protection: antivirus. Here, we have a lot of options:

A commercial antivirus is often the best. If you're going to go commercial, you might as well buy Symantec's Norton Antivirus, because it's simply the best, though it's somewhat pricey.

If you're a student at NC State, you can get a free copy of Symantec Professional Antivirus: Corporate Edition. This is pretty much the best antivirus out there, and is updated automatically by the NC State server when new definitions come out. Set it up to run a full system scan at least monthly (again, I run mine twice weekly). You can download this here. Notice, you'll have to log in with your Unity ID and password to download it.

Additionally, there are several free alternatives: the best, according to many sources, is AVG Anti-Virus: Free Edition. After a short registration form, you recieve an e-mail allowing you to get fully functional virus protection for free (not quite as good as Norton, but close). Of course, I can't really give you a review of this one, because I've never used it, but you can get it here.

One last option for RoadRunner subscribers is the EZ Armor security suite, available for free to RoadRunner subscribers at the RoadRunner website (which is not letting me log in at the moment, so I can't get EZ Armor's exact link) which is www.rr.com. EZ Armor comes with antivirus and firewall.

Speaking of firewalls, Windows XP Service Pack 2 has an integrated firewall (it's not bad, really). Otherwise, there are some free firewall options left, but they're getting harder and harder to find. The best (still) is ZoneAlarm, but it has been decreased from it's former full free version glory to a somewhat stripped down version. Anyways, it's available here.

If you really want to know what to do to fix up your computer, and keep it running in tip-top shape, PC Pitstop is a wealth of knowledge, and has an application set up (use IE) that will scan almost every aspect of your computer and tell you what's wrong, what could be improved, and how to fix it (the site's secure with your information, believe me).

That's about it from me. Do yourself and everyone else a favor: keep your computer virus and spyware-free.

~Michael Akerman

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Interesting, But Useless

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


I am typing this on my new Dell Inspiron 5150 laptop from my college dorm room at UNC-Charlotte with a Seinfeld rerun playing on my roommate's tv. That's right--I am now in college. Well, actually, my first class isn't until Tuesday, but I've been down here 24 hours now, so I'll consider myself collegiate material. People often say high school helps prepare you for the real world and your chosen career. But more often than not, academically high school seemed like a joke. Ok, that might be a little harsh. Not that it was all easy, either. But rather than getting harder with each passing year, Mrs. Ward's English class and Mr. Johnson's ELPSA (civics) class were the most challenging classes I had in high school, and they were just honors classes, not AP.

In addition, my interests (politics, history, science, literature) were already well established by the time I was in 5th grade and haven't changed much since. I did narrow my career interests (the planetary geologist idea had to go, due to my dislike of math) to working for the State Department and fighting against genocide (my chosen crusade), then retiring to become a full-time writer (fiction and non-fiction (histories)) when my writing can support itself (like John Grisham was a trial lawyer till he found where the real money is!). That's my life's plan, but high school played no role in its formation. Anyway, I'm no longer sure where I was going with all of this...Oh, yes! The point I wanted to make is that for the past four years, I have been waiting to go off to college and gain experience that would further my career interests and high school didn't seem to help much. However, for some people who didn't have a clue of what they wanted to do as a freshman, maybe high school helped. But now, I can begin focusing on what will really matter to me.

For something completely different, read Akerman's response to my last post. Interestingly, Michael didn't refute my arguments that Bush has screwed up the War on Terrorism from start to finish. Instead, he chose to question weather Kerry could win--an issue I promised to address in a future post. ( For the record, Kerry had a five point lead according to the latest polls I've seen, and Bush has lower approval ratings than any incumbent in recent history. In the twentieth century, Harry Truman was the only incumbent who managed to come back and win after being behind in the summer before the election.) He also wrote about the Iraq war, something I have not criticized--yet. So, apparently my specific criticism of the Bush administration's incompetence and mismanagement of the War on Terror will be allowed to stand, unrefuted. An auspicious start to my "Electoral Elucidations". I will post another entry soon. After all, I did promise to post an "Electoral Elucidation" weekly, so I'll have to post later on.

In Peace,

Michael J. Smith

Monday, August 16, 2004

Expulsia Electoralia

By: Michael Akerman


This is actually just a simple reply to Smith, and probably doesn't need blog post status, but HaloScan won't allow more than 1000 characters in a comment, so I'll post it here. Please note that Michael Smith's post is immediately below this one, but I'll keep this one invisible for a few days to allow Smith's post to be read thoroughly and without bias.

Repost:

Actually, I was under the impression that Kerry is becoming more and more likely to lose this election. Personally, I'm looking for things to yell at him about, but he's striking me more as "Bush Lite" as far as policy goes.

For instance, when asked about Iraq, Kerry said he agreed that Saddam had to be removed from power, but claimed he would have done it in a more diplomatic way, and would have built up a multinational coalition and gained UN approval.

Guess what, bud: we tried that. When diplomatic measures fail, and a dictator like Saddam is in power, he must be removed by force.

And, to be fair, the importance of UN approval has been constantly overemphasized. With a group of four seated countries who have ultimate veto power over war measures, it takes no more than one of these countries to block UN approval. Additionally, there were more nations supporting the war (the Kingdom of Morocco (go monkeys!(that's a Fahrenheit 9/11 joke(I'm going to have so many closing parenthesis right here...)))) or who didn't care than opposing the war (France).

Friday, August 13, 2004

Electoral Elucidations: Bush: Pressured into Leadership

By: UnrepentantNewDealer


I was going to post in responce to Akerman's riff on Fahrenheit 9/11. I may yet get around to it, but right now I have something more substantive to post. This morning when I woke up at 10:15, I checked the Weather Channel, for I am a hurricane junkie as well as a political one. Hurricane Charley, which I have tracked since it was but a wee tropical low off the coast of west Africa, was a Category 2 hurricane headed for the west coast of Florida. At 2:00 pm, I checked up on Charley and found him a monstrous Cat 4 storm with winds of 145 miles per hour. It is bearing down on Akerman's old hometown of Ft. Myers even as I frantically type this. The latest is that the hurricane will cut across the Florida peninsula, strengthen offshore and batter into the Carolinas. Interesting times ahead in my neck of the woods! But as intimidating as this strongest hurricane to batter hapless Floridians since Andrew is, it is a weakling compared to the storm now exploding in Florida and in every corner of this great land: the battle for America's future and its very soul known as Election '04.

This is without a doubt the most important election in our lifetimes, the most important since 1932. For what is at stake is nothing less than the future of American democracy and standing in the world. By far the most important issue to the American people, according to numerous polls, is the economy. Thus the media ignores the sorry state of our economy under Bush and focuses on the War on Terrorism, supposedly Bush's strongest suit. (Thanks, "Liberal Media"!) But what the Republicans and pundits fail to realize is that Bush's prosecution of the War on Terrorism has been a series of almost unmitigated disasters from start to finish!

I have read two quite revealing books this summer: Against All Enemies by Richard Clarke, the man who did the most to fight against and warn about the dangers of Al Qaida in the 8 years leading up to September 11, and the 9/11 Commisson Report by the bipartisan commission of the same name. In retrospect it is obvious that the Clinton Administration did not do a good enough job allocating the resources necessary to fight Al Qaida. But as insufficient as the Clinton's Administration's responce was, they at least tried. The Bush Administration was asleep at the wheel when it came to fighting terrorism. Bush had just been inaugerated, when the intelligence services determined that the recent attack on the U.S.S. Cole was the work of Al Qaida. Clinton had authorized cruise missile strikes after the last Al Qaida attack, the embassy bombings in East Aftrica in 1998. (These strikes demolished a suspected bin Ladin-related chemical weapons plant in Sudan and the main terrorist training camp in Afghanistan. In fact, if not for the probable tip-off by sympathizers in the Pakistani intelligence service and military, Osama bin Ladin would have almost certainly been in the camp when the missiles hit.) According to Condolezza Rice, there was no responce to this act of war because the president was "tired of swatting at flies." One of the commissioners challenged her to name some "flies" the administration had swatted. How could he be tired of swatting flies if he never had? Outrageously, this terrorist provocation was allowed to go unpunished.

Clarke and outgoing Nation Security Advisor Sandy Berger warned the incoming admistration that the their number one priority must be Al Qaida and that nothing else even came close. On January 25, Clarke "urgently requested" an emergency Principals Committee meeting (which brings together all the leaders of the various agencies involved). On September 4, the administration finally got around to having this meeting, but nothing new or substantial came out of it, and Rumsfeld steered the meeting toward combating nonexistent "Iraqi terrorism", and away from Al Qaida. Too little, too late. The President's August briefing entitled "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US", warning of aircraft hijackings, didn't stop the President from enjoying the rest of his month-long vacation at his ranch in Texas. The Administration repeatedly thwarted attempts to deploy the armed Predator drone to Afghanistan to spy on and annihilate terrorists, something it has proven very good at since 9/11. The 9/11 Commission found 6 missed opportunies to disrupt the 9/11 plot during the first eight months of the Bush Admistration, compared to four during the entire eight years of the Clinton Administration. Read the report for complete details; I highly recommend this book for every American. If we want to prevent future attacks we will follow the recommendations of this bipartisan panel.

Well, ok, so much for Bush's leadership before 9/11. But, you ask, wasn't his responce to the attacks positively great? Hardly. Senator Joe Lieberman sponsored a bill to create a new Department of Homeland Security. The Bush Administration, obsessed with cutting the size of the federal government, refused and appointed Tom Ridge to be the Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, without any real power, budget, an agency to control, resources to do his job, or a seat on the Cabinet Due to public pressure and the outrage of the September 11 families, Bush relented and created the Department of Homeland Security, but he insisted on including a provision that stripped civil service protection and labor rights from tens of thousands of government employees--in the name of fighting terrorism of course! The Democrats in Congress, noting that the airlines had cut security to trim costs and maximize profits, thus enabling the 19 hijackers to slip through the security at three different airports, proposed the creation of a Transportation Security Department. Again Bush opposed it, but relented due to public pressure.

The families who lost loved ones in the attacks as well as every other American, deserved an independent bipartisan investigation into the attacks to find out how they happened, and what to do to prevent further attacks. The Bush Administration tried to block the creation of this commission. When that failed, Bush attempted to appoint Henry Kissenger chairman of the commission. Kissenger, infamous for his secrecy, would likely have kept the findings top-secret. Fortunately, again due to public pressure, and to personal reluctance to divest himself of money he had invested and chairman positions he had on the boards of various companies, Kissenger refused to serve and former Republican governor Thomas Kean of New Jersey was appointed chairman. He repeatedly complained of White House stonewalling and refusal to turn over relevant documents in a timely manner. Bush and Cheney refused to testify or let National Security Advisor Rice testify, either. They once again relented under public pressure. They refused to extend the May 2004 deadline of the commission, relenting to a July release date under--you guessed it--public pressure! Sensing a pattern here? On every matter of leadership, the Bush Administration was uncooperative and only did anything substantive after intense Congressional, Democratic, and public pressure, especially from the 9/11 families. On every matter, the Bush Administration had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing the right thing to protect America. Some leadership!

But, you say, surely the War on Terror abroad fares well, thanks to the valiant efforts of the Bush Administration? This is but the first of an ambitious new series of posts that I am entitling "Electoral Elucidations".(In case the meaning of the word eludes you, Webster's helpfully defines "elucidate" as "to make lucid or clear by explanation", something sorely lacking in the media and public discourse this election year.) In my next post I will address Afghanistan, Iraq, etc., and show how the Bush Administration's actions abroad not only threaten our victory in the War on Terror and the continued pre-eminence of America amoung nations,but also the essential liberties and God-given rights of the American citizen. By then, it should become obvious that the War on Terrorism is not Bush's stong suit, but his Achilles Heel, the chink in his armor. Future posts will make it clear that there is only one rational choice this year, John Kerry, and examine how a Kerry victory, looking increasingly likely, could come about. That's all for now.

In peace,

Michael J. Smith

Saturday, August 07, 2004

Philanthropy

By: Michael Akerman


I tell people I want to be rich. I don't hesitate to state this if someone asks. People think I'm merely greedy, but it's something more.

I want to help people. Not just single individuals, but on a large scale. I want to give millions, or perhaps billions, anonymously to charities. I want to be able to walk up to a downtrodden homeless person (not one of those panhandlers, mind you) or read a story in the newspaper about a family who has fallen on hard times and can't afford a necessary... something, and send them a cool million anonymously.

I say anonymously because I don't want to fall into the trap that most wealthy people fall into, in which they give solely to increase their public image, like Bill Gates, or Ross Perot, or Ted Turner. No, I want to give with no one knowing, and leave it to my final request to reveal my donations (can't go without some kind of acknowledgment, now can I?)

I read Leonard Pitts' column today (here, at the Miami Herald's website, or in today's News & Record), and it made me think: "What if someone could effect large scale change in Africa?" Obviously, no one, not even the wealthiest person, could pay enough to fix Africa entirely. And the U.S. alone couldn't even do it, because poverty is not something we can fix with military aid alone. Of course, I'm of the firm belief that democracy itself makes great strides toward ending poverty wherever it is effected as the means of government, so the first step would be changing the African governments to a republican setup. But what if someone set a trend after that? I want to be able to donate tens of billions of dollars to African nations (anonymously, of course. You know the schpiel), but will anybody else?

I think they would. I think we just need that seed, but it would have to be arranged correctly. For example, if I wanted to get other wealthy people donating to these causes, I would have to donate my lot of money anonymously, then "accidentally" be revealed. Because, you see, this will worry the heck out of the bigwigs. They'll be left with only one option as they now face the disappointment, which is a mild way to say it, of the general public, and they'll, by and large, be forced to save their image by donating.

Incidentally, the need and, ultimately, responsibility for America to effect changes to democratic government in other countries is why I support the war in Iraq, and why I'll support any war for this cause that doesn't require a draft to support (a draft, as I've said before, should only be used when we must defend our very way of life, as in World War I and II).

God bless America, for we are in a position to really help the world. And God bless Bush, for standing up to criticism and actually helping.

~Michael Akerman,
...by the way, there's a new, though rather unimportant, post below this one...

Friday, August 06, 2004

Rhetorically Useless

By: Michael Akerman


Entering college, it seems that these universities are largely wasting my time. I mean that, at least at State, the information provided is consistently either limited and repetitive or terribly hard to access. For instance, orientation was merely a repetition of everything they had already sent us: all the papers, forms, and pamphlets that we already had.

The information that I actually need, it seems, is carefully hidden, or written in the most difficult jargon possible. Finding out more about foreign language requirements (which Ragsdale (surprise) did a poor job of informing me of exactly what was required) led me, finally, to a Google search on ncsu.edu (yay, Google!). Incidentally, I have my foreign language fulfilled, which both removes a weight from my shoulders and further complicates my already cramped schedule, wherein my mom wants more credit hours.

Aside from ill-designed websites (which is ironic for a university with a design school), setting up remote access to the NCSU computer lab network was astoundingly easy, though harder than it should have been. I'm now set up with a Secure Shell direct access to my Eos/Unity account, a virtual hard drive image that direct connects to Eos/Unity through WolfCall, FTP access to my account, and the ability to remotely run the Unity programs on my home computer. Additionally, every student at State gets 50 Mb of storage or webspace, which means I could theoretically set up PHP and MySQL files on that storage and run really cool programs on the blog (like good message boards).

This laptop is terribly slow, even at basic typing, while Norton's running, so I'm ending it here.

~Michael Akerman